Maryann Tobin

Mitt Romney's choice for his vice presidential running mate may be sending a hidden message.

Perhaps the GOP suspects that they can't beat Obama with Romney in 2012, even with voter ID laws blocking up to 5 million legally registered voters, and they are positioning themselves for 2016, with Paul Ryan at the top of the ticket.

Mitt Romney has never had the whole-hearted support of the ultra-conservative base of the GOP. His campaign thus far has been shrouded in controversy over his lack of transparency with his tax returns, and more importantly, voters just don't seem to like Mr. Romney. His unfavorable ratings are among the highest of any presidential candidate in recent history, at more than 47 percent.

Another element of risk in for the Romney-Ryan ticket is Ryan himself. His Path to Prosperity budget plan slashes popular programs like Social Security and Medicaid, and ends Medicare as a government guaranteed health insurance program. Ryan, like Romney, also favors ever-larger tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and tax increases for working class Americans.

Attacking Social Security and Medicare have traditionally been viewed as political suicide for those who dare to threaten them. In 2011, a special election in New York's 26th District became a referendum on the Ryan budget and Medicare reform to a private insurance payment voucher system. The once-solid Republican seat turned blue when Democrat Kathy Hochul trounced Jane Corwin by 5 percentage points. And it didn't take long for voters to make their choice clear.

"Fifteen minutes after the polls in New York closed, democrat Kathy Hochul was declared the projected winner of the NY District 26 congressional race by MSNBC News. The special election to replace Chris Lee, who resigned after a sex scandal, was said to be a referendum on Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to end Medicare," as reported May 24, 2011, on Allvoices. "Republican challenger Jane Corwin said she supported ending Medicare, and Hochul campaigned on the promise of stopping the GOP from dismantling the popular government run health care program."

Ryan still stands behind his plan to end Medicare and hand seniors a bill for the difference in what insurance vouchers don’t cover. Most estimates place the out-of-pocket costs at more than $5,900, with increases each year as premiums from private insurers rise, and that is providing seniors can find an insurance company willing to sell them a policy at all.

Gone would be the choices in doctors and hospitals currently enjoyed by Medicare recipients.

"If implemented, the government would no longer pay doctors to treat Medicare beneficiaries. Instead, beneficiaries would buy their own private insurance plans, and the government would give people money to pay to buy health plans from an approved list," according to ABC News.

No doubt, with Ryan as Romney's running mate, the subject of health care and entitlements will be high on the list of debated issues. It may also spark higher voter turnout, with the future of millions of American's retirement lifestyle on the line.

Paul Ryan is the personification of what the Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party is all about. Smaller government really means no entitlements, not fewer rules for average Americans. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, veterans benefits and college tuition assistance programs are not considered necessary to the ultra-right wing.

Smaller government means less money for programs that help the working class, and more money for the wealthy who Romney and Ryan call job creators.

Both President Obama and numerous economists have warned about the dangers of slashing spending in a weak economy. But Romney and Ryan still insist that what America needs is more trickle-down economics.

If the Romney-Ryan ticket wins and they end Social Security and Medicare as we know it, then deeply cut funding to states, it could result in an economic and social disaster that hits American communities hard.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calls the Ryan budget plan an unbalanced package that "lacks significant revenues" and simply "shifts costs to state and localities."

So while it may make the federal government appear to be on more solid financial ground, it's all a spreadsheet illusion. Neighborhoods all over America will be squeezed by starved local governments for every penny they can get by raising taxes and fees, and cutting services like police, firefighters and teachers.

But make no mistake, this is what the Republicans want. And if they can't get it in 2012, they will try again in 2016, perhaps with Paul Ryan at the top of the GOP ticket.

If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.


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